Tyler Hicks, Oct. 20, 2002A hopeful crowd had gathered outside the notorious Abu Ghraib prison following a broadcast announcing amnesty for a selection of prisoners. With the war mounting, Saddam Hussein had agreed to free some of the men as a goodwill gesture. In a few hours the waiting families had grown into a desperate mob that tore down the gates. Thousands, desperate to find their relatives, streamed into the massive complex. By dusk I was lost deep within Abu Ghraib, and came upon a frantic scene in an area where political prisoners were being held. The security here was heavier, but a portion of the cell block wall had been demolished. Guards stood between the prisoners and their liberators, swinging their clubs in all directions. Frantic prisoners were injured or crushed to death in the mayhem as dozens tried to squeeze through the narrow opening to freedom. This was the first time I'd seen a collective movement against Saddam Hussein's thuggish rule, though as history would show, this was not an end to the horrors this prison would witness.
Tyler Hicks, Oct. 20, 2002 A hopeful crowd had gathered outside the notorious Abu Ghraib prison following a broadcast announcing amnesty for a selection of prisoners. With the war mounting, Saddam Hussein had agreed to free some of the men as a goodwill gesture. In a few hours the waiting families had grown into a desperate mob that tore down the gates. Thousands, desperate to find their relatives, streamed into the massive complex. By dusk I was lost deep within Abu Ghraib, and came upon a frantic scene in an area where political prisoners were being held. The security here was heavier, but a portion of the cell block wall had been demolished. Guards stood between the prisoners and their liberators, swinging their clubs in all directions. Frantic prisoners were injured or crushed to death in the mayhem as dozens tried to squeeze through the narrow opening to freedom. This was the first time I'd seen a collective movement against Saddam Hussein's thuggish rule, though as history would show, this was not an end to the horrors this prison would witness.Tyler Hicks—The New York Times
Tyler Hicks, Oct. 20, 2002A hopeful crowd had gathered outside the notorious Abu Ghraib prison following a broadcast announcing amnesty for a selection of prisoners. With the war mounting, Saddam Hussein had agreed to free some of the men as a goodwill gesture. In a few hours the waiting families had grown into a desperate mob that tore down the gates. Thousands, desperate to find their relatives, streamed into the massive complex. By dusk I was lost deep within Abu Ghraib, and came upon a frantic scene in an area where political prisoners were being held. The security here was heavier, but a portion of the cell block wall had been demolished. Guards stood between the prisoners and their liberators, swinging their clubs in all directions. Frantic prisoners were injured or crushed to death in the mayhem as dozens tried to squeeze through the narrow opening to freedom. This was the first time I'd seen a collective movement against Saddam Hussein's thuggish rule, though as history would show, this was not an end to the horrors this prison would witness.
Bruno Stevens, Feb. 12, 2003The window of the Al Zahawi cafe in Rashid Street, named after a famous local poet and musician. Baghdad cafes are a trademark of this ancient city, places where men gather after prayer and play dominoes or blackjack with intense passion while drinking black or lemon tea or traditional arabic coffee (kaÕwah). It was about 6 weeks before the war started that I took this image as a metaphor for the Iraqi population, a complex society whose people are framed by their own divisions and perspectives as well as having their fate determined by the outside world. To this day I believe that I somehow managed to encompass all those tensions and drama still to come in a single frame. I am in Baghdad at the moment, revisiting places and people from 10 years ago, and the Al Zahawi Caf� is still one of my favorites.
Paolo Pellegrin, March 4, 2003I entered Iraq unembedded with a car I had rented in Kuwait, stopping to photograph the fighting in Basra, a city in the South on the highway to Baghdad. The picture was taken near some sort of compound where there had been fighting between pro-Saddam fighters and British forces. There were several bodies of Iraqi fighters lying around. At one point, people started to appear on the streets to drag away particular bodies. As I understand, the woman in the foreground of the photograph was the mother of the deceased. They dragged him from the place he was killed, put him in the trunk of a waiting car, and drove off. When I look at this image ten years later, the first thing that comes to mind is the idea of loss. I see the photograph and think of the mother's loss. If I continue looking, that black veiled figure, in some strange sense, makes me think of death itself Ñ shadowy and dark.
1/2 Charlie Company Returns Home From Iraq
Damir Sagolj, March 25, 2003I shot this picture almost ten years ago, just about the time when it was obvious to me that a war Ñ a real one fought between armies Ñ was over. Dead bodies were all around the road to Baghdad. Who is the person in the picture that I took from atop an armored vehicle carrying U.S. Marines towards the Iraqi capital? I donÕt know. Not far from this man, there was the wreckage of a truck hit by something powerful. More bodies around, in different positions. All dead. It immediately got lost, the photo itself, amongst others full of emotions, blood and military action illustrating what would be celebrated as the liberation of a country from a tyrant. Somewhere near Nassiriya, this man was left to rot under the desert sun Ñ and forgotten on my hard drive. Not long after, I realized that was probably my best frame from the short and bloody desert rally Ð a simple but powerful picture of an unknown man Òof military ageÓ killed and left in an ugly landscape among tank trails, surrounded by nothing but dust and the noise of war. After all, this is how I see the whole war thing Ð a dirty nightmare and ugly emptiness you are alone in. Dead or still alive, but alone.
James Hill, March 25, 2003The only real resistance to the Allied invasion of Iraq in March 2003 turned out to be the weather, and in particular the sand storm that engulfed the troops for a full day in the middle of the desert about a week into the advance. Many of the Marines were stuck in open vehicles and they tried best to protect themselves from the biting wind laced with sand, all except this one Marine who steadfastly munched on his Skittles. A few years later this image was on the front of a book about the war and the Skittles had to be photoshopped out because of copyright violations for having the branded sweets on the cover! Looking back on that day I sense how the fog of the storm was also something of a metaphor for the whole campaign that even now it is hard to decide, even after the departure of American troops, what were the rights and wrongs and successes and failures of the campaign.
Yuri Kozyrev, March 31, 2003A Sheikh Maaruf cemetery worker carries a reusable casket to the storage house after the funeral of Nidal Ali Jasem, a lonely deaf and dumb woman killed in a rocket blast in the south of Baghdad. I was in Baghdad with a hundred journalists during "Shock and Awe." When the operation began on March 21st, the prospect of dropping thousands bombs and missiles was frightening for everyone on the ground. On the first night, in spite of the thunderous explosions not far from the hotel the journalists were staying in, we observed that the weapons were destroying the targets with accuracy. After a week of bombings, it was amazing to witness the Iraqis' remarkable resilience. Most people continued with their daily lives as bombs continued to fall around them. And of course there were airstrikes where many Iraqi civilians were killed. We were being watched by minders all the time, who gave us access to the events they thought were news: civilians affected by the bombing or a press conference at the Ministry of Information. We were not allowed to go anywhere near the military or the Republican Guard. They wanted us to report their side of the story Ñ we couldn't just get into the taxi and travel around.It was late afternoon when my colleague, Sergey Loiko of the Los Angeles Times, our minder and I entered one of the oldest cemeteries in Baghdad. We didn't expect to see people there but there were some families who had brought the bodies of their relatives killed by airstrikes. A worker told us he had been busy all day long.
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Gary Knight, April 7, 2003 This photograph was taken moments after this position in the unfinished Baghdad suburb of Dyala came under artillery barrage. I had watched the shells 'walk' in and was lying in a depression in the ground on the other side of the wall on the right as the shells crashed in. It was like an earthquake Ñ so loud and so terrifying waiting for them to hit. I have been shelled in many places over the years and it's the most terrifying thing. I always imagine I can outwit a man who can see me and is trying to kill me with something as small as a bullet, but with artillery, it's all a question of luck. I saw the turret of the APC fly into the air. When the barrage stopped and the violence was broken momentarily by silence, young men started to shout and scream. One Marine lay dead in the dirt and several others were badly wounded. There were many different reactions by the men to the death of their friend which are revealed in this simple photograph. One officer took control, indicating to others to move the body. The Marine on the right bowed his head Ñ he was unable to look. On the left, another stood pigeon-toed, gazing off into the distance while others cleaned up and attended to the wounded. A Marine moved across with his head down as if he didnÕt want to be seen. Violence in war is like this Ñ men don't respond the way one expects and a wide range of personal and complex emotional responses emerge. In that fragment of time, most had withdrawn into their own intimate space, even though they were part of a whole Ñ a whole that was diminished by the loss of one. The Marines were comfortable that I took this picture, which surprised me at the time. Later, they told me that they were gratified that their experience of this war was being photographed. They said it validated their experience, both for themselves and for those who werenÕt there to share it with them Ñ outsiders Ñ people who don't know war. The photograph meant it could never be denied. A few weeks ago, I was told that the dead Marine had been killed by friendly fire Ñ U.S. artillery that dropped short. This is what we were told originally, only to have it retracted the following day. The Marine was killed by shrapnel that flew out the back of the APC after the shell went through the open turret. If it had landed a foot away on either side, it would have killed or wounded everyone in the photograph. His terrible misfortune was our good luck. That's what it comes down to in the end.
Alex Majoli, April 8, 2003 An American soldier killed during the battle for Baghdad, 10 miles from the city's center.I basically hitch-hiked convoys and helicopters to get to Baghdad before the fall of Saddam. I ended up with this unit of Marines who were supplying munitions and meals to the front-line soldiers. I decided to stay with them. Being in the right place at the right time is a must for many journalists Ñ I guess I was in the wrong place but at the right time.
Andrew Cutraro, April 8, 2003I barely remember taking this photograph. I was totally unprepared for the physical and mental rigors of covering the Marines. I was exhausted and disoriented to a breaking point, so when I saw this scene, I thought I was hallucinating. The killing had picked up and become personal as the invasion force moved from the open desert into the urban areas. This photo was taken just outside Baghdad before it fell. The Marines were told to expect a bloody street-to-street fight for the capital and the men of Lima Co., 3/7 were steeling themselves for it.
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James Nachtwey, April 22, 2003The invasion had just ended but the war was just beginning when the Shiites made a sacred pilgrimage to Karbala. Tens of thousands gathered at a mosque dedicated to a martyred saint. In a frenzy of religious devotion, long processions of chanting men paraded through the streets flagellating themselves with chains or cutting their heads with knives. In the midst of the chaos, a group of women wearing chadors stopped to pray in front of the mosque, and a weathered hand extended in devotion became the eye of the storm.
Iraq: 2003 Invasion and aftermath
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Kate Brooks, Sept. 29, 2003An estimated 125 people were killed in a car bombing at the Tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf. The attack targeted a prominent ShiÕite cleric and occurred as the faithful were leaving after Friday prayers. It was the single most violent incident I have ever witnessed in my 15-year career as a photojournalist. When I think back on that day in 2003, I always remember the Iraqi man holding a dismembered leg in the middle of the street, staring at me with a questioning gaze as if I was supposed to know what to do. Ten years later the photograph I took of him is still considered too graphic to publish.My bewildered colleague (who had been helping pull bodies from the rubble) and I caught sight of each other through the crowd Ñ the man with the leg stood between us. Neither of us has ever forgotten that moment or the carnage, terror and confusion we felt, saw and recorded that day. Hysterical men sobbed in the midst of the chaos while others tried to hit me out of rage for being an American. I kept shooting and moving while an Iraqi police shielded me.
Mike Kamber, Oct. 27, 2003This was the morning everything changed for me. U.S. combat troops were due to return home in a month and I'd been sent to Iraq to cover the "return to normality," as an editor put it. Joao Silva and I were standing around when an enormous explosion shook our house. The bombing turned out to be a mile away. We were first journalists on the scene and found the Red Cross destroyed by a truck bomb; dozens were killed. As we photographed, other explosions went off around the city. I thought this soldier's face said it all, the shock that there was to be no "return to normality."
Iraqi boy Ayad Alim Brissam Karim shows
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Sadr City
Moises Saman, July 2004I took this photograph a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein. I was driving around the sprawling slum of Sadr City, formerly known as Saddam City, when in a back alley I noticed a young man trying to tame this majestic white horse. The scene was at once mesmerizing and jarring because the animal seemed so out of place. Looking back at this memory, the photo represents to me the opulence of Saddam's reign, and the struggles of the Iraqi people to regain a sense of control with what remained from the former regime.
Kael Alford, Aug. 21, 2004For several weeks in July and August 2004, the Sadr militia and U.S. forces fought a pitched battle in Najav, Iraq. Sadr militia fighters seized control of the city and radiated through the medina in concentric circles from the exquisite shrine of Imam Ali, the symbolic heart of Shiite Islam in Iraq. Fighters of all ages came from throughout the country, including some from Iran, to engage the U.S. forces. I managed to cross the front lines with a handful of journalists to cover the battle from the Sadr fighters' positions and learn their point of view on the battle.At edge of the medina, along the boulevards where American tanks had room to prowl, fighters would fire at the tanks with small arms and shoulderÐlaunched rockets, then retreat into the maze of the old city. Snipers from both sides guarded that front line. That's where we came across the body of this elderly man killed the night before by a high-powered shot to the head. A citizen of Najaf who lived nearby covered the elderly man's body with his own cloak, the gauzy, black cotton traditional to the south of Iraq. It was a poignant gesture of respect. We didn't know the identity of the man and couldn't confirm how he'd died, though the man who covered his body said it had been an American sniper.The irony of that particular battle was that even though the American forces took far fewer casualties and easily outgunned the Sadr militia with their war planes, tanks and heavy artillery, by the time a ceasefire was negotiated, the Sadr movement, with its anti-American platform claimed a moral victory by defending the shrine from U.S. forces and holding them at bay. They gained a huge political following in the process.
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Andrea Bruce, 2004Draped in black abayas, over 500 women, mostly widows, led a march in Sadr City against the violence that plagued their neighborhood and country. Suicide bombings and mass graves were common. People were disappearing. Even still, Iraqis were testing their new found freedom to protest. But a protest led by women, voicing their hatred of all violence caused by all sides, was rare. Their chants were fierce and angry. Then celebratory. Then exhausted. As if discovering their voice and using it made them see the cost so much clearer.
The Battle for Falluja, 2004
Lynsey Addario, Nov. 2004In November 2004, a reporter and I were granted almost unprecedented access to the theater hospital in Balad, where dozens of American troops were being treated as they came out of battle during the siege of Fallujah. For five days, I photographed young, virile American men being brought in to the emergency arena, in varying states of consciousness and with all types of injuries. They were treated by a medical staff that barely slept or ate, and many were then forwarded on to the American base in Ramstein, Germany for more advanced treatment. In Balad, they improvised: yellow school buses were used to transport the injured, and cargo planes were converted into flying hospitals, laden with injured strapped in stretchers to the floor of the plane.
BJ Jackson, A Veteran Wounded in Iraq, With Family in Des Moines, Iowa
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Seamus Murphy, Aug. 2005This was taken at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. I went there to photograph the treatment and rehabilitation of military personnel from the war in Iraq. I had arrived in Texas a day early for my appointment at Brooke and driven to the protest by Cindy Sheehan and others outside George Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. The anti-war protest had evolved into a very unfunny stand-off between anti-war protesters and supporters for Bush and the war. I was at Brooke the following morning. When I walked in, the atmosphere was charged with a forced positivity generated by the physios and trainers. As a result, the patients were very forthright and I struggled to keep my composure as I found myself shaking their hands which felt like hard rubber, devoid of any sense of flesh or life and staring into lost eyes housed in grotesquely disfigured faces. I got talking with this guy and his mother. I asked them to come into the hallway as I wanted to photograph them in a more neutral environment. The son is reaching out to his mother between shots. At the end she asked me jokingly to do some magic on the computer to erase the flaws in the photographs. Her flaws. What is extraordinary and wonderful to me is that what bothered her was how as a woman she would look in the photograph. She was any woman mindful of her appearance, any mother with her son. She just saw her son beside her, and was simply happy he was home.
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Peter van Agtmael, June 15, 2006I was sleeping when I heard an explosion coming from the city of Mosul. I walked over to the motor pool as a column of Strykers rolled in. Some soldiers walked past me, their faces tightly drawn. I joined the next patrol heading into town and was told there had been a suicide bombing. Nine people had been killed and twenty-three wounded in a crowded café during the breakfast hour. The vehicles stopped down the street from the blast site, and we walked down to the gaping hole in the otherwise quiet block. The Abu-Ali restaurant was shattered. The soldiers had stopped by the restaurant many times for chai or a chat with the friendly owner. Now bits of flesh and scorched food, splinters of furniture and crockery choked the floor. The streets were empty except for a few curious bystanders. The patrol moved to the hospital to check on the victims. The owner lay shriveled on one of the beds. His head was swaddled in bandages but for his nose and lips, which were caked in dried blood. He did not survive the day.
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Danfung Dennis, July 4, 2007In 2007, the fighting in Baghdad had shifted to the surrounding provinces, so US forces launched a major offensive on the city of Baquba in Diyala province. I was embedded in the 2nd Infantry Division as they cleared the city. Many houses had been booby trapped with explosives by insurgents, making movement dangerous and difficult. To gain information on the location of bombs, US soldiers spent time speaking with local residents. A women told the soldiers of a house that had been used by insurgents. We went to investigate. As we entered the house the soldier in front of me lifted up the carpet in the living room. There were wires snaking everywhere. A call from further down the hall warned us that the bomb dog had found a massive amount of explosives in the back. The solider said calmly, "Get out," then screamed, "Get out!" We rushed out and an airstrike was called in to destroy the house. Reflecting back, I was moments away from stepping on a booby trapped carpet that would have triggered a devastating blast. Nine US soliders were killed in a similar trap nearby.
U.S. ARMY TROOPS ARE SURROUNDED BY SHEEP WHILE WATCHING RURAL AREA IN NORTHERN IRAQ.
Iraq Perspectives Book
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Franco Pagetti, Sept. 28, 2007I arrived in Baghdad for the first time three months before the American bombs fell on March 19, 2003. From 2004 to 2008, I was one of the few western journalists working in Iraq as part of TIME’s small team of writers, photographers, and most importantly, a staff of Iraqis who risked their lives by coming to work every day, supporting us in every way possible. Years before, I gave up fashion photography to become a photojournalist because I wanted my photographs to make a difference. I believe strongly that it is important to show the effects of war honestly. It took more than a year before I went to Samarra in 2007, embedded with the American military, and then I was finally able to take pictures of the damaged mosque. For photographers, there were many obstacles to covering this war– but we always found ways to get around them. It is my hope that our pictures will be a lasting record that will help us remember always.
George W. Bush, Nouri al-Maliki
Farah Nosh, March 4, 2009I’ve listened to Iraqis share their tragedies over the years. “This is freedom?” is the ongoing Iraqi dark humor. I met Rena a year after she was hit by an American airstrike. She was eight months pregnant and walking hand in hand with her young sister in Sadr city in 2008. American forces were on a mission to 'clean up' Shiite militias. In an instant, Rena lost her left leg, her unborn infant, and her youngest sister. And in the same instant, much like the country itself, she became imprisoned by sadness. In my days with Rena, as much as we cried together, we laughed. Her longing to laugh and her surprising sense of humor filled me with humility. Exhausted by trauma and sadness, there was an innate strength and desire to move forward towards something better. Repeatedly lost with shattered expectations, hope is something that Iraqis have exhausted themselves in holding. Eventually Iraq’s violence would grow its own tired face, and like Iraq, Rena had to find a way to cope: through triumph. When you find lightness and humor, you find your way back.
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Tyler Hicks, Oct. 20, 2002 A hopeful crowd had gathered outside the notorious Abu Ghraib prison following a broadcast a
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Tyler Hicks—The New York Times
1 of 56

A Decade of War in Iraq: The Images That Moved Them Most

Mar 08, 2013

In the five years Baghdad was my home, I got to work (or just hang out) with some of the finest news photographers in the world: Yuri Kozyrev, Franco Pagetti, Kate Brooks, James Nachtwey, Robert Nicklesberg, Lynsey Addario, the late Chris Hondros… the list is as long as it is distinguished. Their immense talent and incredible bravery combined to make the Iraq war arguably the most exhaustively photographed conflict in human history. This selection doesn't begin to capture the immensity of their collective achievement, but it is evocative of the horrors — and just occasionally, hope — they were able to chronicle.

As a correspondent, I was sometimes on the scene when an iconic image was captured: for instance, I had to keep ducking out of Kate Brooks' field of vision in the aftermath of the Sept, 2003 bombing of the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf. The scene was one of utter carnage, and I found myself putting aside my notebook to help dig survivors and bodies from the rubble. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kate, standing perfectly still in the swirling chaos, her eye never moving from the viewfinder, capturing the moment. I have no idea how she kept her senses: I found myself frequently crying or vomiting. Afterward, she told me she was able to fight back any emotion precisely because her eye was glued to the viewfinder: the camera allowed her a sense of distance from everything around her.

Perhaps the secret of great photography lies in that ability to be simultaneously in the moment physically and removed from it by the camera. If that sounds coldly dispassionate, then I'm not describing it right, because war photographers are the most emotionally alert people I know. As these images will show, it is their ability to capture humanity in the most inhuman circumstances that makes them the best at their craft.

Bobby Ghosh is the editor of TIME International. Follow him on Twitter @ghoshworld.

Reporting and production by Vaughn Wallace. Additional production by Bridget Harris.

This collection of testimonies is the fourth in a series by TIME documenting iconic images of conflict. See "Photographing Syria's Agony", “9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” and “Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” for more.

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